What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Early in May, award-winning author Terry Fallis spoke here in London, Ontario, at an event organized by the London Writers’ Society, my local writing group. In his book, No Relation, Terry writes about people who share a name similar to someone famous. Earnest Hemingway (versus Ernest Hemingway), James Moriarty, Mario Andretti, Marie Antoinette. What would it be like to share a famous moniker? (I suggest you read Fallis’ book for a humorous tale.)

But it got me thinking about my own name which is the opposite of famous…both my first and last names as common as cheddar cheese. My married surname – Costa – means from the coast in Mediterranean cultures. It’s the equivalent of Smith or Brown in North America.

There are actually three Donna Costas in my family and we all married into the family. (There are also two Linas, two Rosas, three Franks, three Tonys. What can I say…that’s Italian?) 

When I married into my husband’s Italian family almost 46 years ago, I became the second Donna Costa in the family, the other being the wife of my husband’s first cousin. (Hi, Donna!) Then my brother-in-law married – you guessed it – a Donna, different middle name. (Hi, Donna!)

From time to time, I would joke about reverting to my maiden name, but that was usurped after my cousin Wayne married. Forever more, the name meant someone else at family reunions, not me. In The Malahat Review, issue 222, “My Name: A Timeline,” Paul Dhillon writes, “I […] start to think about how a name can both connect us to a community and sever us from our ancestors.” Yeah, I get it.

I recall a time after high school when I worked as a legal secretary, having been hired in part because of a reference given from my friend, Donna – different last name – who worked at the law firm. She insisted she was Donna the first, while I was Donna the second. My suggestion of Donna Old and Donna New was met with stony silence, except for some snickers from Marg Bell aka Dinger. (We were a playful bunch!)

There’ve been times when bank tellers have pulled up records for a Donna Costa at an address unknown to me. Ditto medical records, although that seldom happens anymore with health cards. Imagine discovering someone with the same name, no relation, living on your street. (That happened to my spouse.)

There are enough of us named Donna Costa to start a club. If you know one, ask her to drop me a line. I’d love to hear where she’s from. And whether she’s family or no relation.

Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash

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